WDW Week before Christmas

Having a daughter in Kindergarten has opened my family to a new thing; vacations dependent on the school calendar. Where as pre-kid life meant that my husband and I would avoid times that families travel, now we are one of THOSE families.

Animal Kingdom Christmas Tree

So we decided to attempt a "Disney PRO" feat: going to WDW the week before Christmas. For your reference, this is a "red" week at Disney World, and the 3rd busiest week of the year for them. We are talking CROWDS people. And while I love Disney, I hate crowds. Why even consider it then?

Because I love a challenge.

Word of warning: if you have never been to WDW, I'm just going to put this out there- I would not recommend having your first trip to WDW be a red week. Like Christmastime. Or July 4th, or Thanksgiving week. There are 48 other weeks to take a first trip, and you should do it.

But if you've been at least once, you can do this! All you need is a plan.

I of course, read and read my favorite blogs (see my Disney planning posts for reference), and discovered the following considerations:

1- Time of park openings and crowd levels
2- Park hopping or not park hopping
3- Special Add-ons to miss/not to miss

And for us, we had an added bonus of a new baby (10 months old) to travel with, so that was new to us!

Timing of going to the park
1. How early can you wake up?
This is important, because the parks tend to fill out around 1030.  All the blogs I read suggested around 12, or maybe 11, the parks would become insane. But if you are crowd adverse, 1030 is when the madness starts. This means- EPECIALLY if you are going to Magic Kingdom (MK), that you will start waiting in line for every ride. And with kids in tow? No thank you. So are you willing to actually take advantage of Early Morning Hours? (EMH). By this, I mean be there at rope drop if opening is 7am?  If this doesn't scare you- you can do this.
It didn't intimidate us. We are an early morning family, always out of the house by 645. So we just did the same here- and made it each morning. We averaged 10 rides between 700-1030. No joke! And then we would stand in line for 20-35 minutes for our last 2 rides before heading back to the hotel for lunch or eating in the parks.

Fastpasses and dining times. 
What is important here is that you do NOT need fastpasses before 9. So what we did was get an 0830 fastpass (keep in mind they are open for an hour), then ride the 0830 ride at 0925. Then hit our 0930 fastpass, and end with our 1030 fastpass. Awesome!!!!
We left the park or ate lunch at 11- hard stop. Remember, we woke up early and have been in the parks (or MK at least) for 4 hours. So we ate one day at Crystal Palace (love Winnie the Pooh over here!), and one day at the hotel for lunch on our MK days.  Then we would take naps/hit the pool until 330. That's a 4.5 hour break right there! See? We weren't so crazy AND we skipped the insanity park hours.  We would then return to the park, arriving around 430, and do 3 hours before heading home for an early bedtime.  We would use the extra fast pass option for whatever evening park we were in, and do them one by one.

Park hopping or not park hopping
I believe you have to buy a park hopper for this specific week. Because- while you took advantage of the EMH to get rides in, many other people chose that park for the EMH, but didn't wake up in time. However, their fast-passes and dining reservations are for whatever park has EMH- thus the hoards of people. So in your evening- GO SOMEWHERE ELSE! Enjoy lower crowds at Epcot or Animal Kingdom.

Special Add-ons to miss/not to miss
A. Mickeys Very Merry Christmas Party.  This party was super-pitched for our trip.  We were splurging and gave it a go, but at $90, is it worth it? Short answer? No. Long answer? While you do get fewer lines in the park for rides, there are still a lot of people there. Plus, it meant keeping the kids up late, which was a hassle. The parade WAS awesome, but it was hard to get a spot for my 5 year old to see.  Other than that, the cookies were "meh."Other than that, it just felt like they closed MK early to make people pay for the privelage of a less-busy park. Go get your jolly-on over at Epcot instead!

B. Holidays Around the World at Epcot. We had planned a short visit to Epcot with our kids, as we always thought of Epcot as non-kid friendly. We were super-surprised that we were disappointed to have not spent more time there! Holidays around the world was awesome. Our 5 year old was so interested in the storytellers, loved all the decorations, and we easily could have gone back a 2nd night and seen so much more. Plus? Its free after admission.

C. Dreaming of a Disney Holiday. Want a big splurge? Get your hotel room decorated by Disney Florists! The cheapskate part of me still cringes at the price, but the "spoil my family rotten because it is Christmas" mom in me splurged on this. And.... it was worth it to see the smile on everyones face at the surprise (even my husband!).

As a final note, I have only stayed this week of the year at Wilderness Lodge. It was on my bucket list for WDW in general, but... for Christmas? Holy smokes. It was so beautiful, there were choirs in the lobby, the decorations were spot on. If you are considering it, I can give it my 5-star backing.


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